The Milwaukeean Sumautumn of Brian J.

Wow, gentle reader, it seems as though I have left you out on the biggest adventure of my summer/autumn. Well, adventures, and they’re not very big at all, but I am not 20 years old any more, so my adventures are a little more narrow in scope.

At any rate, for about four weeks, I lived a bit like a Milwaukeean.

I am sure that I’ve gone on and on, if not on this blog then certainly in person, about how many festivals Milwaukee has in the summer. Aside from Summerfest, the ten day (or however they do it now) music festival with multiple national headlining acts every day, the Henry Maier festival park on the lakefront also hosts a variety of ethnic festivals throughout the summer. And Milwaukee’s myriad churches also have festivals of their own. So on a weekend in Milwaukee, one can choose one or more festivals. And one can fill a summer’s full of weekends just so. Assuming, perhaps, that one is high school or college age and has no other real responsibilities.

So in mid-August, we lived like Milwaukeeans.

It started, really, with the Ernst-Fest in Freistatt, Missouri. When the boys were at the Lutheran school, they played basketball against the Trinity Lutheran School Knights from Freistatt, so we visited four or five times, and we’ve sent the school a little money now and then. The Lions Club fairgrounds are a mile north of the school on the one road through town that runs between Mount Vernon and Monett. It was a small affair—a polka band playing in the biergarten, brats and sauerkraut served at a concession stand, and a series of games mostly for kids run by Trinity Lutheran—the principal recognized us and greeted us by name (Springfield Lutheran). We also ran into a family from our church who was originally from Freistatt but live just a couple miles west of us for now. The oldest son went to SLS with my oldest until fifth grade, where the exodus of serious athletes occurred–their parents wanted them to play in public schools with real athletic programs. I guess it worked–the boy had an onside kick recovery on Friday night at the high school.

The next Saturday, we went down to Crane, Missouri, for its annual Broiler Fest (the broiler being broiler chickens—I guess historically Crane has been associated with the poultry industry, although the Tyson plants are down in Monett). I had read about this festival in the Branson and the Stone County papers for years, but in the past, our September weekends were consumed with cross country meets until they were consumed with marching band competitions. This year, I made an effort to attend, and I dragged my boys down to it. The Crane Boiler Fest is a more full-featured festival than Ernst-Fest, with two band stages (gospel and bluegrass), a midway with rides (the boys turned up their noses at the rides now that they’re used to full-sized amusement parks), craft and information booths (where I entered a couple of gun raffles, as is my wont—gun raffles are popular fundraisers in the Ozarks), and, of course, a chicken dinner. Which was delicious.

On Labor Day weekend, as I mentioned, we went to the Kansas City Renaissance Faire. Which I am counting as a festival for blogging purposes and for keeping the streak going.

Last weekend, I went to four different festivals. LIKE A MILWAUKEEAN!

A bit of a note: The second weekend of September is apparently Springfield’s festival weekend, as the only two annual festivals I know of occur on the same weekend and are a mile or two apart.

On Friday night, we went to the St. Elizabeth Ann Seaton Catholic church’s Harvest Home festival. Now this is the festival that most closely tracks with my experience in Milwaukee: Food, some little games, some small rides, and a live band playing old time rock and roll. We only had one boy with us–the oldest was off to Cole Camp with a friend to attend the annual Cole Camp town fair–and my youngest was as interested in the games has he had been oh, five years ago, and not at all interested in the kiddie rides. But we had something to eat, and we listened to the band which featured three guitars, a bass, a drum, a saxophone, and a trombone. I asked my company, both trumpet players, whether the band would be better with a trumpet. The boy said no, my beautiful wife said yes. The answer is, of course, yes.

On Saturday afternoon, I went to the festival at St. Thomas the Apostle Greek Orthodox Church. It’s a small, one-day affair which has a silent auction/Greek Orthodox gift shop tent, tours of the church, a tent serving Greek food, and canned Greek music with some live dancers at times and, presumably, some live Greek music at some time. Most people just come for the food, which is why the line snaked to the parking area and it took me almost an hour to eat–some people also placed To Go orders and carried away large bags of the food. So I ate and left.

On Saturday evening, the remote campus of our church had its second Faith and Friends Festival, also a small affair (so far), Free food, free ice cream, and some small games. We went and ate and socialized a little.

On Sunday afternoon, we went to the Japanese Heritage Festival at the Japanese stroll garden at Nathaniel Greene park. As my wife is a member of the park board, she attends a lot of dedications and events at the parks, and the youngest and I came along. It, too, is a pretty small affair–a stage with different demonstrations and shows, a number of retail booths lumped together, and various business booths. The actual split between Japanese things and American companies was about 50/50. One of the booths was for K-Pop music for some reasons (historical spoiler alert: The Koreans and the Japanese have not been friends through the millenia), and another was for a Springfield cosplay group–and a large number of attendees were in costume as anime characters. One wonders what traditional Japanese people–I understand visitors from Springfield’s Japanese sister city Isesaki attended–thought of that. Although I guess young people in Japan can also be a little, erm, youthful as well.

So that was seven festivals in four weeks. Like a Milwaukeean!

If anyone needs me, I will be at the gym, trying to work of this festival food.

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